Last Friday Victoria Goode (Informationist) and I parked ourselves at a Welch Library Information table for the Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Biennial Alumni Reunion. We were there from 10:30 am till 4:00 pm. Victoria and I have done our fair share of Information table time together, however before we started we admitted to no small degree of trepidation. Our “rock-solid” reasoning for this was 1) the attendees were considerably older (but rest assured they did not lack for energy) and we imagined their impressions of the Welch Library they knew were bound to be quite different from the Welch Library that presently exists. And 2) chances are they might not view technology and social media as go-to resources for medicine. Apps and Tablets now being the Jack n’ Jill of contemporary scientific know-how. In fact, we thought we’d hear our share of attendees who “yearned for the good old days,” and would “boo-whoo” the changing times.



With our pre-conceived assumptions confidently in tow it was, of course, only a matter of time till we realized just how OFF our thinking was. Many attendees stopped by our table to say wonderful things about the Welch Library, to recall many trips they’d made in and out of the stacks and to mention all the assistance they’d received along the way. To be fair, I have to say we received a little assistance from an unexpected source. The folks at Medical Archives had arranged for a plasma screen slide show that showcased many building on the east Baltimore campus in a “then and now” display. They also had pictures of many illustrious Hopkins Doctors and Nurses, with a note or two about their contributions. This plasma screen was directly over our table. In essence, it created a “reflection area” for people to view and comment. And comment they did.



I have to relate a particular story from a gentlemen who told the story of how Dr. Victor McKusick wanted to study animal heart sounds, and decided that boa constrictors had very particular heart murmurs. He contacted the Baltimore Zoo and asked if he could bring a team there to do a study. The Zoo agreed and a team from Hopkins showed up ready to tackle the boa constrictors. The gentleman telling the story was part of that team, and he laughed long and hard at how scared everyone was. Though they did eventually drug the boas, no one wanted to go near them, everyone thought they’d be in the safe confines of a lab doing “normal” study. No one thought their work would take them to the Zoo! Soon after, Dr. McKusick, who was shifting from being a Cardiologist to a Geneticist, took the boas back to Hopkins for more intensive study. Apparently, the storage arrangement for boa constrictors was not made clear to Dr. Alfred Blalock who stumbled into the lab one day, quite shocked and quite curious about who brought the boas?!    



This is only one of the little tidbits the Alumni passed along. The combination of that plasma screen and seeing the name “Welch Library” seemed to trigger---seemed to unlock---some wonderful mental treasures they’d long-ago put away for safe keeping. When our time was over, we realized how absolutely good it felt to be completely wrong. Who knew a little time sitting at a table handing out a few pencils, pads and a USB bracelet or two would deliver an altogether unexpected experience. I’m willing to bet you’ve had those moments too, when suddenly---without warning---it’s just not an ordinary day anymore.


          As we left our table and walked back, I believe Victoria and I had begun to reciprocate the process. We’ve now taken a few stored away memories from our time at the Reunion and put them in a very treasured place. As they say, what goes around…….





Alonzo LaMont

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